Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg

Welcome to a world of child brides, honour killings, girls pretending to be boys and burkas. This is an interesting but depressing book about the situation of women in Kabul. The women in the book are extremely admirable and brave - they try to do what they can to make a difference to a country full of harsh restrictions on women. I especially liked reading about the politician who is battling huge odds.

Unfortunately, I haven't finished this, because it is written in the present tense, so I found it a bit difficult to read.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are, Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas

Juliette Binoche
This is a bit silly and tongue-in-cheek.  It probably won't help you become Parisian, although there are many good tips that I liked, including tips about beauty, going on dates and holding dinner parties.  For example, the authors tell you not to dry your hair with a hair-dryer.  According to these sophisticated French women, you should dry it naturally with a towel. Also, don't wash it every day, and keep your natural colour. I also liked the suggestions for wardrobe classics, including white shirts and iconic trench coats. There are also lots of recipes which are not difficult.

This is great fun to read, and I also loved the charming drawings.  There are lots of useful sections in the book, such as Parisian aphorisms, tales of famous French women, and suggestions of French films and books.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.by Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington realised that her life was on the wrong track when she woke up in a pool of blood. She had collapsed from lack of sleep and exhaustion.  Her accident showed her that most of us define success in terms of money and power, so she decided to seek a more meaningful elucidation. This book explains the steps that we should take to help us find this new way of success.

Many people suffer from burnout, stress and depression in these difficult times. Huffington offers some answers by encouraging readers to search for well-being, wisdom, wonder and be more giving.  She offers several suggestions for taking care of our health, such as slowing down, getting more sleep and letting go of our reliance on technology.  She supports her tips with evidence from lots of studies.

Huffington stresses the importance of mindfulness, and seeking wisdom.  She writes that wisdom is about finding connection and love, so we need to drop our relentless pursuit of success as society defines it if we want to seek it.  We need to cultivate gratitude and try to live in a 'state of grace'.

I have read a lot of these suggestions before. (It's the application that's difficult!) However, Huffington writes  beautifully,  includes lessons from her Greek background and family, and she also provides lists of helpful websites and books.  I read the wonderful Arianna Huffington's first book when I was at school, and I've always been a big fan of her writing, so I was very happy to obtain this free copy from Blogging for Books. This is a book that I'll definitely turn to often!

My opinion of this book is entirely my own

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud

Esther Freud has written a masterpiece!  This evocative, atmospheric novel tells a haunting and meaningful story, and it is filled with brilliant characterizations and beautiful descriptions of Suffolk landscapes.  It will also appeal to fans of the wonderful Scottish artist, the great Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Set in the dark days of the First World War, the plot involves a young boy with an artistic bent who is mentored by the Sherlock Holmes-like Mackintosh and his charming wife.  Thomas has a rather violent father who wants him to study instead of pursuing his art, but Mackintosh encourages him.  In this coming-of-age story, Thomas falls for Betty, one of the 'herring girls'.

Everything comes together in this beautifully-written historical novel.

Return to London by Terence Jenkins

 (The Black Prince)
Did you know that there were two palaces in Croydon, or that Queen Elizabeth 1 stayed there many times, and swore at Archbishop Parker's wife? (She didn't approve of married archbishops).  Do you know who the Black Prince is?  If you read this entertaining series of historical vignettes, you will!

This is an enjoyable and informative set of articles about historical places and people with helpful photos.  Perfect for travellers, it serves as a background to many of the areas of London, such as Kennington Common.  The only problem is that there was sometimes too much information for me to absorb, but I am feeling stressed at the moment.   Perhaps, it could have done with a bit more editing.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Deeper Water by Jessie Cole

This lyrically-written and exciting novel will keep you riveted to the very last page. It's lush description of the landscape, sympathetic characters and strange and evocative story impressed me greatly.

The tale involves Mema, a young and innocent girl and Hamish, who she saves from rising floods. Hamish is lost without his computer and phone and finds himself rather adrift in the remote and beautiful countryside near Byron Bay where Mema lives. Mema has difficulty coping with her growing feelings towards the older man in this coming-of-age novel.

Jessie Cole is certainly an Australian writer to watch.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

How To Ruin A Queen by Jonathan Beckman

Beckman tells a fascinating tale about the characters in Marie Antoinette's 'Necklace Affair' and it's ramifications for the monarchy in France. There is the Queen who is the victim of a scandalous plot, a poverty-stricken and vengeful girl with delusions of grandeur and the Cardinal who falls for the plot in a careless manner, even though he knows that the Queen hates him! The affair is complicated, but Beckman's narrative is clear, well-researched and written in a captivating way.

The setting- the lead-up to the Revolution is full of atmosphere and colour- and Beckman's describes the dog-eat-dog scenario in a grand style. This is not a dry history. It will capture your attension from beginning to end.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Red Dirt Duchess by Louise Reynolds (Penguin Destiny Romance)

(Outback by Gabrielle Delhey at Wikipedia)

Sparks fly when Charlie, the outgoing owner of an outback pub, and handsome aristocrat Jon meet. But are their differences too great?  Jon needs to marry a suitable aristocratic bride, for example, and have an heir - this is the role in life that he is running from. However, he soon finds himself attracted to Charlie's Australian honesty, good sense and bluntness. He also wants to discover why he feels a connection with Charlie's father's painting.

This is an emotional and surprisingly moving story with sympathetic characters and beautiful settings, ranging from the spectacular Australian outback landscape to a sumptuous English country house.  The love story involving two damaged young people who gain strength from each other is nicely developed with good dialogue.  The sub-plot of the mystery painting helps to keep the story intriguing.

There is a coincidence in the book that is a bit silly, but as it is well-written Louise Reynolds just manages to make it seem convincing.